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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

It's Quite a Day When This Tommy Rips Dodgers

December 01, 2005|T.J. Simers

I don't know the man as much as I know Tommy Hawkins' reputation, a gentleman, always the good soldier, a former Laker, broadcaster and for 18 years a loyal front-office employee of the Dodgers.

Hawkins, 68 now, retired a year ago, leaving the Dodgers as a vice president of his own accord. "No sour grapes," he said. "I never talked to [Frank] McCourt about staying. It was very comfortable for me to leave, no debriefings, no talk with lawyers or human resources, I was just going to leave."

So when the "The Big Show with Steve Mason and John Ireland" on 710 called Tuesday afternoon to ask his opinion on which franchise is in worse shape -- the Lakers or the Dodgers -- Hawkins said he could answer honestly with no bitterness.

"I'm a loyalist, but also a realist," he said. "I don't have to walk that tightrope anymore; I'm a free agent, a knowledgeable free agent with the opportunity to say things that I've never said before."

Then he told the Mason and Ireland radio audience, "I have never seen an organization in such disarray as the Dodgers.

"This is unbelievably bad," he continued. "Every time I see some of the decisions being made or some of the people that have been fired or some of the people that were brought into positions who have never spent one hour in baseball, I want to throw up."

Hawkins wasn't necessarily breaking new ground, but coming from someone known best for so long for correctly choosing his words, it was a shock.

"I was blown away," Mason said. "This is the nicest guy in the world; I've never heard him say anything bad about anyone, and this was as blistering an attack as I've heard. I guess it reflects how bad things have gotten there.

"When we were doing this show [a few years back], Tommy came in every single week, and while a lot of guys toe the company line on the air but are different off it, he toed the line both on and off the air. He [now] convinced me how rotten things have gotten there."

I called Hawkins on Wednesday to find out if he had any regrets or wished to retract his remarks, but instead he had more to say:

* On Jim Tracy's dismissal: "I threw my hands up in disgust. Why was it necessary he left? When you [McCourt] agree with someone [general manager Paul DePodesta] to get rid of Tracy and then a month later fire [DePodesta], tell me where is the logic there?"

* On the Dodgers' front-office situation: "You take what's being done in tickets, advertising, marketing, customer service, public relations, and it's about as disjointed as I have ever seen in any organization."

* On the dismissal of several low-level staff members: "These are hard-hat people that make an organization go. If you find out, please let me know why they were fired. I can't fathom why."

* On Peter O'Malley: "What I loved about him was his total concern for talent. He'd always tell us lieutenants, I want people who have backgrounds immediately applicable to bettering this organization. I didn't see that with Fox, and haven't seen it with the McCourts."

* On the McCourts' dismissing people at every level: "They wiped out history. There's some pomposity there. They came in believing they had the right idea and could do it their own way, and now they've hit the wall. Then they go out and hire all these efficiency [and crisis management] experts who haven't spent an hour in baseball either."

A day earlier on the radio, he had said, "I don't care how much money you make, when you come into this position and [have] never been there before, you have a three-year learning curve before you can make these tough decisions.... You just don't become Peter O'Malley, or because you have bucks or Fox lends you $230 million."

I called the Dodgers for rebuttal, and Jamie McCourt responded. As soon as I picked myself up off the floor, we chatted.

"It's incredibly hurtful Tommy would say such negative things," she said. "There's no question we're in the process of turning this ship around. We've hired Ned Colletti [as general manager], and it's clear we'll be headed in the right direction. He's about to hire a manager. I think everybody will be happy with the progress that's going to be made.

"Nobody was happy with last year," she continued. "It was incredibly disappointing. None of us want to see that happen again."

I complimented her on being almost coherent, suggested she must have gotten a good night's sleep, and she laughed. She said we'd have to do lunch again.

Maybe I'll invite Hawkins to join us.

*

NANCY HART e-mailed to say her husband had suffered a stroke in January. "This is his first attempt at writing anything lengthy since the stroke," she wrote. "It is a major step for him."

And so TODAY'S LAST word comes from John "Jack" Hart:

"After college graduation and marriage I was fortunate enough to father two wonderful children, one of whom played Little League baseball. Later I was appointed manager of the Intermediate (5-8 year old) Dodgers. The best player in our league was Gary Roenicke, older brother of Angels third base coach Ron. Both Ron and Gary remain friends of my son, Steve. I'd like to alert McCourt to Gary's potential as a field manager. I suspect Gary is catching his limit of trout somewhere in Colorado or Idaho, but Ron could probably reach him."

Now why would you want to ruin the poor guy's life?

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at

t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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